Salina’s Town Supervisor says it’s not entirely clear what the Consensus Commission’s recommendations might mean for his town if any of the measures to streamline local government were put into place. We’re checking in this week with various government, business, and political leaders on the potential impact of the report’s 50 recommendations, including the consolidation of the city and county. The Commission’s report identifies up to nearly 33-million dollars in annual savings county-wide. But even as a commission member, Salina’s Mark Nicotra says he’s not sure if that’s possible.
"Are those projections accurate? You won't know that until you get into the nuts and bolts the combining those departments and certain parts of the municipalities," Nicotra said. "The real question should be: Is the taxpayer, the resident going to be paying less taxes? I'm not sure they will. It very well might be. But we have no evidence that's going to be the case at this time.”
Nicotra says Salina is already sharing some services and equipment, but acknowledges they could also do more. But he says that’s probably where residents would draw the line on consolidating operations.
“There's no ground swell of activity from our residents saying need to get rid of town government, village government," Nicotra said. "The governor villainizes local government as the bad guys. But we're the people who've been out here for years doing all of the things we're talking about doing now.”
Under the Consensus recommendations, the county’s 19 towns and 15 villages would be able to opt in to the proposed new metropolitan government. But Nicotra says his residents like how they can reach out to their local government officials.
"We're the most accessible level of government," Nicotra said. "They can find us on the phone, walk into the office, see us in the grocery store, etc. They want that to stay, so we have to find a way to continue that, but continue that at a price point that they can afford.”
Nicotra says although it’s unclear where to go from here, it’s important to be having these conversations on how to do things differently. He says any consolidation effort should come from the people, and not from government leaders.